Pastor Targets Corruption

Simon Graves wants to dunk crooked pols.

In the end, however, Centorino seemed taken with the pastor's charm, and asserted that the county needs more civic-minded individuals like Graves: "I wish that every citizen had the attitude and said, 'Look, we gotta change this. We can't keep things going the way that they are.'"

From there, Graves made some inroads at the Miami-Dade County Attorney's Office. Assistant County Attorney Cynthia Johnson-Stacks told Graves he sounded like a delightful person. She declined, however, to tell him whether his idea was viable or even legal.

Michael Murawski, an advocate for the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, explained to Graves that, as of now, politicians caught being naughty are fined an initial penalty of $500. Each additional violation costs $1,000.

E.F. Angel
E.F. Angel


Public meetings of the Miami-Dade County Charter Review Task Force: January 9 at 10 a.m., Main Library Auditorium, 101 W Flagler St, Miami; January 16 at 6 p.m., Stephen P. Clark Government Center, 111 NW 1st St, 2nd Floor, Miami; January 17 at 10 a.m., Stephen P. Clark Government Center, 111 NW 1st St, Conference Rooms 18-3 and 18-4; and January 23 at 10 a.m., Main Library Auditorium, 101 W Flagler St, Miami.

Graves balked at the county's piddling price tag on vice and then unveiled his scheme.

"We're not talking about killing these people?" asked Murawski, aghast.

"No, sir!" Graves exclaimed. "We're just talking about bringing a little shame back to Miami. I want politicians to know: Steal a dollar, you're gonna get dunked."

Murawski insisted he would pass the information on to his superior and that a return call would be forthcoming. (It wasn't.)

County Commissioner Dennis Moss chuckled when Graves invited him to join in "dunk[ing] us some sticky-handed politicians."

Moss called the idea "interesting."

"Everyone thinks this idea is 'interesting,'" Graves moaned.

He tried to get John Timoney to volunteer for a test dunk, but the Miami Police chief would not return his calls. "That was very disappointing," Graves said. "[Timoney] seems like such a good man."

On December 12, Graves rose before sunrise to take the bus from his house to the Dadeland South Metrorail station. He took a train into downtown Miami and rode an elevator up to Mayor Carlos Alvarez's conference room. It would be his first and last Miami-Dade County Charter Review meeting.

Inside the windowless chamber, official types (the mayor of Miami Gardens, lawyers, lobbyists, lobbyists' lawyers, etc.) sat jabbering around a massive wooden table. Aides, secretaries, and assistants created a pantsuit orbit around the gathering — typing into Blackberries and filing handouts into large binders while their bosses bickered through the meeting agenda.

It went on for three hours.

While various speakers droned incessantly about municipal incorporation, Graves muttered to himself in the corner, practicing a speech he would never get the chance to deliver. His fevered murmur and swishing slacks blended into the room's white noise as he marched from his chair to the metal coffee urn and back — over and over.

By 1 p.m., Graves — so caffeinated he was nearly running in place — watched the entire room rise and exit. Horrified, he dashed over to the panel's honorary chairman, attorney Victor M. Diaz Jr., and implored him for a chance to speak.

The petite advocate, dressed in a pinstripe suit, told the pastor he would have to attend one of their public hearings.

Graves handed him some literature and explained his plan. Diaz offered a patronizing smile and passed Graves's materials to his secretary to be "filed into the agenda."

Carlos Gimenez, the only county commissioner to appoint himself to the task force, briefly — and dismissively — spoke with Graves. "There's a system in place to deal with this sort of thing," he said, shaking his head. "Dunking ... that's, um, I don't believe that's appropriate."

Graves left him with a copy of his prepared remarks, which read, in part: "I'm here today because I've come to realize that Miami is a dirty town. Filthy, in fact.... I want to offer [errant politicians] the opportunity to have a little moment with God, a few feet down in the bay. I want to give them the gift of underwater contemplation. I want to bring them to salvation through humiliation. And, let's face it, the only way that's going to happen is to give them a little taste of damnation." The last word was underlined twice.

The following afternoon, Pastor Graves had all but given up on the charter review process. "They're liars," he boomed, drawing uncomfortable stares from the midday passengers sharing his Metromover car. "They've just blown me off over and over again. I suspect that some of them are trying to keep the people of Miami from dunking these crooks!"

Graves's campaign was looking grim. His MySpace page, which took his young neighbor nearly a day to concoct, had garnered only one friend: a militant Evangelical Christian named Duane whose profile featured a lot of self-portraits — with and without guns — as well as an injunction against movies: "There is some heresy in them all." (Duane, a divorced truck driver in Great Neck, New York, nullified their friendship a few weeks later.)

Determined to take his dunking movement to the streets, Graves decided to print up some propaganda. He spent a sleepless night perfecting a flyer, mainly consisting of a cartoon depicting an 18th-century maiden being dunked into a river by punitive colonists.

"Once the people see my literature, they're gonna start coming to the site," he explained as the now empty train car rocked from side to side. "I just know it."

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